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Retailers in Japan Unite Against Shoplifting During Self-Checkouts

Retailers in Japan Unite Against Shoplifting During Self-Checkouts

As Japanese retailers are adopting self-checkout systems to cope with labor shortages and pandemic-induced challenges, there has been a rise in shoplifting incidents. Retailers are setting aside their competitive instincts to collaborate on combating this growing issue.

A Recent Incident in Nakagawa, Fukuoka Prefecture

A woman in a Nakagawa discount store was caught attempting to steal an assortment of 48 items, ranging from cosmetics to daily necessities, all worth around 21,745 yen (approximately $149.30). She was apprehended at the self-checkout station by undercover security personnel who observed her suspicious behavior.

The Growth of Self-Checkouts

The National Supermarket Association of Japan reports that self-checkout systems were initially introduced in 2003. The adoption rate has steadily grown due to labor constraints and the need for cost-efficiency. A survey involving 300 supermarkets across Japan indicated that the percentage of stores implementing self-checkouts jumped from 14.3% in 2019 to 30% in 2022, likely driven by the necessity to minimize human contact during the pandemic.

Evolving Tactics in Shoplifting

Shoppers at self-checkouts are expected to scan each item’s barcode individually. However, shoplifters have developed tactics to appear as if they are scanning all items, while skillfully bypassing the actual scanning process. Typically, these deceptive actions go unnoticed until staff review security footage and compare it with sales receipts. When approached by security, shoplifters often feign simple errors.

Countermeasures by the Trial Company

Based in Fukuoka, the Trial Company runs nearly 280 discount and supermarket stores, predominantly in the southwestern Kyushu region. In most of its stores, self-checkout systems have been installed. Astonishingly, more than 80% of shoplifting cases reported in May 2023 occurred at self-service payment points. In response, the company enhanced its employee training programs, developed educational videos, and installed additional surveillance, such as monitors showcasing customer faces and hands during transactions. This is thought to increase self-awareness among customers, discouraging theft.

1. Identifying Repeated Patterns

Further advancements have been made in identifying frequent shoplifters. The Trial Company studied patterns like typical attire and timings, enabling them to strategically position undercover security personnel.

2. Collaborative Efforts by Retailers

Retailers are breaking new ground by sharing insights and strategies with industry competitors. Companies like Aeon Kyushu Co. and Nishitetsu Store are participating in associations that focus on various issues, including theft prevention. Information sharing on shoplifting trends and preventative tools has been deemed highly beneficial by participants.

Since July 2019, some Tokyo bookstores have shared security footage featuring suspected shoplifters. However, caution has been advised by the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, citing potential infringement on privacy and other rights of citizens. Experts suggest that any shared information should be carefully managed to avoid violating privacy laws.

Sources: Mainichi, National Supermarket Association

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